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O'Neill standing strong after draw

Republic of Ireland boss Martin O'Neill was in defiant mood after seeing Scotland "get away" with a priceless Euro 2016 point in Dublin.

John O'Shea's unfortunate second-half own goal handed the visitors a 1-1 draw from a game of which Ireland had the better for it for long periods and took a first-half lead through Jon Walters.

The result left the Republic still two points adrift of their neighbours in Group D, but five shy of leaders Poland following their demolition of Georgia, and further reduced O'Neill's chances of leading the nation to the finals in France.

He said: "Naturally, the advantage is to Scotland because the status quo remains. They must be delighted to get away with something in the game.

"But having said that, we are still well in the group - and this is not just fighting, bravado talk - we are still still well in the group. The two games in September, we will take those and see where that leaves us by the time that we come into the Germany game.

"We have those two games to win, away in Gibraltar and at home to Georgia."

Walters stabbed the home side into a 38th-minute lead at the Aviva Stadium after keeper David Marshall could only block Daryl Murphy's header with the Scots appealing in vain for offside, and the Ipswich striker might have doubled their advantage before the break.

However, Shaun Maloney, who scored the only goal in Scotland's victory over the Irish in November, saw his curling effort deflected past keeper Shay Given by the unwitting O'Shea two minutes after the restart, and even the introduction of substitutes James McClean, Robbie Keane and Shane Long could not force another breakthrough.

O'Neill said: "I thought we were very dominant in the first-half and deserved to be be in front, and we have absolutely fallen asleep for the goal - even though it is going miles wide - just after half-time.

"We should have closed it down on about three different occasions. But having seen the goal back, it's hit John on the back and gone into the net when it would have gone wide."

Opposite number Gordon Strachan was understandably far happier with the result of a game he described as "ridiculous".

He said: "I just think what an intense game of football, what a great occasion. To get that intensity in June is ridiculous after players playing that amount of games. It's quite phenomenal.

"I think the intensity came with both teams desperate to win, and desperate when they didn't have the ball to not lose. We have seen something you don't normally see in June, so you have to give respect to all the players who played out there today.

"But I have not analysed the group. You never know - I keep saying this - you never know what the points are going to be that are going to get you to qualify."

Strachan heaped praise upon Maloney, who once again proved Scotland's key man.

He said: "All I know is a very good player scored a wonderful goal again, so for all the systems and whatever you talk about, a very good player has got us a point, and a very good player 10 minutes from the end, who is no taller than me, is back in the right-back position heading the ball away from McClean.

"He's the most conscientious football player I have ever come across. He deserves every praise he gets, so if any young football wants to watch anybody, it's him."


From Belfast Telegraph